Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Apartment Workbench, part 5

(Go back to part 4)

Mounting The Vise

The first thing you'll think about this vise is, "It's so cute!" The second thing is "Will this thing be big enough?"

Here again we have to sacrifice a bit in the interest of portability. This is a very simple light duty vise, but it's big enough to do a fair amount of work. It's mounted in a cutout in the apron. The strength of the mounting comes from two wood screws vertically up into the apron and two horizontally into the front of the apron.

The mounting procedure I'm showing here will work for the most part with other vises if you choose to use a different one, but each one's a bit different. I can also take advantage of the simple construction and light weight of this one to remove the back plate and mount it separately. That may not be possible with every vise. Some vises will accept large lag screws for the underside mounting, but those are generally too heavy for this bench.

I'm mounting it on the left since I'm right-handed. Mount it on the right if you're left-handed. Double check all the layout against your vise. The main thing is you need the guide rods to clear the leg and the underside of the top.

To create the cutout:
  1. Set the square to measure from the outer edge of the apront to 1" inside the leg.
  2. Mark this measurement on the apron front.
  3. Rest the vise on the apron with its left side at the mark. Mark the right side.
  4. Remove the vise and square these two marks down the front of the apron.
  5. Set the square to 1/4" past the thickness of the top. Use it as a guide to run a line at this measurement along the front of the apron between the side lines.
  6. Using the same procedure for kerfing and chiseling that you did to notch the lower leg stretchers, saw and clean out the cutout.

Set the square to 1" past the inside edge of the leg.

Mark this measurement on the front of the apron.

Set the left edge of the vise on this mark and mark the right edge. Square these two marks down the apron.

Set the square to 1/4" past the underside of the top.

Using the square as a guide, run a line at this measurement between the other two lines.

Just like making the legs, saw out kerfs between the side marks to the depth of the line you just marked, then chisel out the waste and chisel it smooth. 

To place the mounting holes for the underside screws:
  1. Set the vise in the recess at its final position.
  2. Mark the holes.
  3. Drill 7/64" pilot holes for #10x2" screws.

Set the vise in this recess and mark the positions of the screw holes.

Here's the position it will be mounted in.

Drill pilot holes for the screws.

Cut two scraps of 1x6 for the vise faces, 8 1/2" long. You'll trim these to width once the vise is mounted. In the future you may want to replace these pine faces with more durable hardwood.

To drill the mounting holes in the rear face piece:
  1. Clamp the pieces in the vise and mark the outer mounting holes in the back face.
  2. Drill 3/16" holes in this piece. These are not pilot holes, the screw shanks should slide through them.
  3. Counterbore these holes on one side for a #12 screw head.

With the wooden jaw faces clamped in the vise, mark the position of the outer mounting holes through the back. Drill and counterbore these holes in one face piece.

To mount the vise:
  1. Unscrew the vise screw all the way so the back plate comes off.
  2. Set the plate in position and drive #10x2" screws through the underside mounting holes.
  3. Drill 11/64" pilot holes for #12x3" screws through the outside mounting holes through the apron into the front edge of the top.
  4. Place the pre-drilled face piece on the plate, aligning the holes.
  5. Drive #12x3" screws in, securing the face piece and the back plate.
  6. Reattach the front of the vise.
  7. Clamp the other face piece in the vise and drive #8x3/4" screws in. Be careful not to overdrive them and strip the holes out.
  8. Stand the bench up with the legs secured and saw the face pieces to width, flush with the top surface of the bench.

Unwind the screw until the back plate comes off. Drive screws into the underside mounting holes.

Drill pilot holes for #12x3" screws in the outer mounting holes.

Place the drilled face piece over this and drive the screws in.

After reattaching the front of the vise, clamp the other face piece in it and drive screws in from the front.

Stand the bench up (making sure the leg braces are bolted in place) and saw the excess off the face pieces flush with the top of the bench.

The bench ready for use!

Folded up.

To secure the leg braces to the front apron for storage:
  1. Trim the leg end of the braces even, leaving 2" of wood from the bolt holes.
  2. Stand the folded up bench on end and set the braces along the front apron. This is where you will store them.
  3. Using the mallet, dimple the front apron with the end of the pivot bolt to mark the position.
  4. Drill a 3/8" hole at this point.
  5. Run the end of the pivot bolt through the apron and secure it loosely with the wing nut.
  6. Mark a line on the legs aligned with the ends of the vise guide rods. You know that the rods clear the underside of the top, so this should as well.
  7. Drill two 3/8" through the legs and apron along this line. Run the two leg bolts through them and secure with the wing nuts. If there's not enough clearance to spin the nuts, you can redrill the holes a little lower, which doesn't look great, but won't harm anything.

Trim the braces even, leaving 2" from the carriage bolt holes.

With the bench on end, hold the legs in storage position next to the vise and dimple the apron with the location of the pivot bolt. Drill this, run the bolt through and spin the wing nut down on it.

Mark a line that's aligned with the ends of the vise guide rods on the leg.

Drill two bolt holes along this line through the legs and the apron. Run the bolts through and spin the wing nuts down on them. I had to redrill the apron holes a bit to provide clearance to turn the nuts. Sloppy, but it worked.

The leg braces secured in storage position for leaning the bench on end...

... or resting flat on the floor.

In part 6 we'll deal with getting it to sit flat on any surface and go through some work-holding and usage tips. Look at part 3 of the portable workbench project to see how to use the lightweight bench this was based on.

I highly recommend drilling a few 3/4" dog holes with the spade bit and getting a pair of Gramercy Tools holdfasts as shown on the portable workbench. These are specialty items, but well worth it. Don't go crazy with dog holes, drill a few at a time as you find you need them.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Apartment Workbench, part 4

(Go back to part 3)

Building The Leg Braces

I ended up making the braces slightly different from the drawing. There, I drew the braces notched to rest on the stretchers. However, as a practical matter, getting those notches right is tricky. So instead I left the braces intact, and notched the stretchers. After showing that, I'll go over how you might approach notching the braces as shown in the drawing if you prefer that way.

Either way should work fine, because it's the shape of the triangle between top, legs, and braces that gives the bench rigidity, pinned in place by the leg hinges and bolts through the pivot block and stretchers. The fit of the notches don't really affect it. But the key consideration here is that you custom fit the braces to the assembly you ended up with.

To fit and attach the braces, attach them to the pivot block under the top. Swing them to their position at the leg stretchers and mark for the notches. Saw and chisel out the notches similar to the way you made the leg laps, then bolt the legs to the stretchers and trim everything up. The bolts are removable, with wing nuts, for easy disassembly.

To attach the pivot block:
  1. Cut a piece of 2x4 scrap 6" long for the block.
  2. Mark a corner at each end of one edge at 45 degrees with the combination square, leaving 1" of width at the square corners.
  3. Saw these corners off.
  4. With the bench upside down, find the center of the space between the legs and the center of the top front to back.
  5. Position the pivot block centered on these points, straight edge down.
  6. Holding the block down firmly, drill 15/64" pilot holes through the notched corners into the bottom side of the top. Since long screws will be going in them, remove the block and deepen the holes without going all the way through. 
  7. Glue the pivot block down.
  8. Drive #14x4" screws in the pilot holes. These are big screws, so go slowly to avoid stripping the heads with the driver bit.

With the block held in place, drill pilot holes in the notched corners.

After applying glue, drive #14x4" screws in, securing the block to the bottom side of the top.

To rough-cut the braces:
  1. Set the straightedge at the block to see where it contacts the upper side of the stretcher. Add 3" to this length.
  2. Cut one brace to the resulting length. Mark it as left or right (when facing from front of upright bench). Each brace will be independently fitted, so you don't want to mix them up.
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 for the other brace.
Alternatively, you can simply cut an 8' 2x4 in half to trim to size once the brace is attached.

Measure from pivot block to 3" past the stretcher for rough length of the brace.

To attach the braces to the pivot block:
  1. Mark a 45 degree angle to knock off a corner of a brace using the combination square.
  2. Saw off this corner.
  3. Clamp the brace in place against the near side of the block, notched corner down. Use a 1/4" drill bit as a spacer to keep it away from the bottom side of the top. That prevents jamming up later when reassembling things.
  4. Drill a 3/8" hole through the brace and block. Once the hole is started in the block, you can remove the brace and finish drilling through the block, keeping the exact position and angle.
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 on the other brace, except that you'll clamp it to the far side of the block, then use the hole in the block as a guide to drill the hole in the brace.
  6. Put both braces in place and run a 3/8"x6" bolt through the holes. Spin a wing nut down the end of the bolt until it's finger tight and the braces are snugged up against the block.

Mark a 45 degree angle on the end of the brace.

Saw this corner off. The leg makes a convenient clamp support to hold the brace.

With the brace clamped to the near side of the block in its position against the stretcher and a 1/4" drill bit under it as a spacer, drill through the brace and block.

With the other brace clamped to the far side of the block, use the hole in the block as a guide to drill through the brace.

To attach the braces to the stretchers:
  1. Raise a brace up against its stretcher. Mark where the brace contacts the corner of the stretcher on each side.
  2. Saw partially down the corner of the stretcher at each of these marks, angled down the outer face of the stretcher. Make an additional center relief cut between them.
  3. Chisel out the waste along this sloping angle. Don't worry about cleaning up yet.
  4. Bring the brace and stretcher together again and see how the brace rests in the notch. Most likely the notch will need to extend further down the stretcher face to seat well.
  5. Saw the notch down further as necessary, chisel it out, and test the fit. Do this is in a couple of small steps to avoid taking too much out. This is custom fitting, so don't rush it. Stop when it's a reasonable fit.
  6. Pare the sloped face of the notch smooth.
  7. With the leg upright in its final position, hold the brace up in its notch and drill a 3/8" hole through the stretcher and brace, at 90 degrees to the brace. Once the hole is started in the brace, drop it down to finish drilling through.
  8. Chisel a clearance space around one side of the stretcher hole so the head of the bolt will snug down into it.
  9. Run a 3/8"x6" bolt through the stretcher and brace, then put a wing nut on the end and spin it down tight.
  10. Repeat steps 1-9 for the other brace.

Raise the brace up to the stretcher and mark where each side contacts.

Saw out shallow cuts across the corner at these marks, then make an additional matching relief cut between them.

Chisel out the waste in the angled notch.

After a couple of additional steps sawing and chiseling to fit, the notch after paring smooth.

Hold the brace in its notch and drill a 3/8" hole. Angle the hole at a right angle to the brace. You may need to make a shallow starter hole straight into the stretcher first to keep the drill bit in place.

Finish drilling through the brace.

Chisel around one half of the hole in the stretcher so the head of the bolt will sit down in it. This one came out pretty ugly!

If you want to notch the braces as shown in the original drawing, the procedure is the opposite. That is, you'll attach the braces to the stretchers first, then attach them to the pivot block. The issue here is getting the angle of the notch cuts right, or at least reasonably close. Minor changes in position as you are putting things in place will change the angles. But some gap in them doesn't really hurt anything.

If you want to do it that way, clamp the ends of the braces to the pivot block and see where they contact the stretchers. Mark these points on the braces, then saw and chisel notches shaped as shown in the drawing. Drill holes through the stretchers and braces and bolt them in place. Finally, drill the hole through the other ends of the stretchers and pivot block and bolt them in place.

Either way should result in a rigid assembly.

The braces bolted secure and rigid.

Closeup of the brace in its notch and bolted in place.

Final Cleanup

To do final trimming and cleanup:
  1. Now that you know exactly how long the braces are, you can saw off any excess at the stretcher end, leaving about 2" of the end past the bolt holes.
  2. Use a chisel to pare off a small chamfer along the edges where you ripped the legs to width. This will help avoid splinters.
  3. Mark a line 1/4" in from each end across the top and along the front apron. Saw this off to flush up the ends of the top even.
  4. Chamfer the sawn edges of the top lightly with a chisel.

Trim the brace end 2" from the bolt hole.

With a paring action, lightly chamfer the sawn edges of the legs.

After marking a line across the top and front apron, saw off the ragged ends to flush everything up.

Lightly chamfer all the cut ends.

The very last step is to disassemble and fold the bench and install gate hooks to latch the legs in place when they're folded. The first few times you may have trouble getting the bolts in and out, but after a few cycles of disassembly and reassembly, the holes will wear enough to make it easy. Drive stuck bolts out with the mallet and another bolt or screw against the end.

The bench is done! There's still the vise to attach, and you need to deal with getting the four legs to sit flat on any surface. But the construction is complete.

This is what you get when you use lumber straight from the home center without jointing the edges. The pieces for the top may have looked straight, but there are gaps where they meet edge-to-edge. Ugly, but it won't affect the performance of the bench.

The assembled bench up on its feet. For the moment, don't worry if it doesn't rest perfectly flat on the floor.

Bottom view all folded up. Note the gate hooks holding the folded legs in place.

Top front view folded up.

Rear view folded up.

In part 5, we'll mount the vise.

(Continue to part 5)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Apartment Workbench, part 3

(Go back to part 2)

Up to this point, it's been pretty simple woodworking. The legs start to get a little more complicated, using some simple joinery. Once again, the materials and construction are crude enough that you don't need to obsess about perfection. But this is a good opportunity to develop your skills. The bench will survive a few mistakes.

Building The Legs

To build the legs, the left pair first needs to be evened up with the right pair. The dimensions in the cutlist get you close, but now you need to exactly match them to the spacer stock you have.
  1. Stack two spacers on the floor and stand one of the shorter left legs on them. Stand one of the longer right legs on the floor up against it.
  2. Either the right or the left leg will be slightly longer (unless they match to within the thickness of a saw cut or so, in which case it's good enough and you can skip this part).
  3. Mark the shorter length on whichever piece is longer.
  4. Form a knifewall at this mark and carefully saw the longer piece to length. When sawing really thin amounts, it helps to put your hand on the outside to support the flimsy bit of wood to keep it from breaking apart.
  5. Repeat for the other leg.
One strategy you can use when you need to match parts like this is to deliberately leave the second part a little long, by 1/4" to 1/2". That leaves enough wood that it's easy to saw off without breaking apart.

Mark the shorter piece on the longer one. This one needs about 1/8" removed, so it's enough to worry about.

After forming a knifewall at the mark, carefully saw off the small bit of waste. You can see that these tools allow you to remove small pieces.

The legs are joined to the stretchers with simple lap joints. Each pair of legs has to have laps cut to match as closely as possible. The way to do this is by ganging the pieces. Might as well gang up the other pair of legs at the same time. You get the best fit by marking directly from the parts you have. Don't worry about numbers, use actual sizes taken directly from the parts.

Use the kerf-and-chisel method to remove the waste, where you make a series of closely-spaced saw cuts to weaken the wood, then chisel out the chunks.

To cut the kerfs for the lower stretcher laps:
  1. Gang all the legs even at one end and clamp them together. This will be the bottom.
  2. Set the combination square to 8". Mark this point up from the bottom.
  3. Square across the ganged parts at this mark.
  4. Stand the end of a lower stretcher at the mark and mark its upper side, establishing the width of the lap. Square across at this mark.
  5. Set the square to the thickness of the stretcher. Square down the sides of the gang at the lines, then use the square as a gauge to run a line along the side between these lines, establishing the depth of the lap.
  6. Form knifewalls across the gang at the upper and lower lines, scoring out the troughs on the inside, in the waste.
  7. Saw carefully across the gang in each knifewall. The two main things to pay attention to are that the cut goes straight down, not tilted at an angle, and you don't saw past the depth line.
  8. Make several more relief cuts across the gang in between the two end cuts. These don't have to be exact, just avoid sawing past the depth line.
  9. Unclamp the gang and mark depth lines on all the pieces.

With the legs ganged up flush, mark 8" up from the bottom and square a line across them.

Mark the width of the lower stretcher from this line and square another line across.

Set the square to the thickness of the stretcher.

Square lines down the sides of the gang and use the square as a gauge to mark the depth line between them.

Form knifewalls at each line across the gang, and saw down carefully to the depth line. Look at both the near side and far side as you cut to make sure you don't go past the line.

Saw several more random relief cuts down to the depth line.

To chisel out the waste on each piece, do it as several steps, each getting closer to the depth line. That way you see what the grain is doing and avoid having it go deep on you and removing too much.
  1. Using a large chisel, chisel down from the side, halfway down the depth. The kerfed wood should break out easily.
  2. Chisel halfway down the remaining depth.
  3. If the grain is not being cooperative, split the remaining distance in half one more time and chisel down.
  4. Now chisel at the line. Go in halfway from each side of the piece, don't go all the way through. This is where you want to be precise.
  5. Stand the piece on its back edge and pare with the end of the chisel to flatten out the bottom of the lap one shaving at a time. This is very fine work. Pay attention to the grain direction and pare with it. If the chisel is diving under the grain, you're going against it, so pare in the other direction. You can also pare at a diagonal or straight across the grain. This grade of lumber has frequent grain changes, so you may have to switch back and forth.
  6. Use the combination square to check for any high spots that need to be removed.
A very important concept to note here is the progression of chiseling from coarse, to medium, to fine work. The coarse work hogs off big chunks without being pretty. The medium work starts to remove smaller chunks with more care. The fine work removes very small amounts very precisely.

You'll see this theme crop up repeatedly in woodworking. Coarse work is fast, removing material quickly. Fine work removes material slowly as you home in on exact dimensions. Get as much work done as you can at the coarse and medium stages to minimize the amount you have to do at the fine stage.

After two passes hogging off big chunks with the chisel, make another pass with smaller chunks.

Working from both side into the middle, chisel down the last remaining bit exactly at the line.

Pare the bottom carefully to remove any humps or uneven spots. Note the grip choked up on the end of the chisel, with the thumb pushing down and forward. Handling the chisel this way gives control and limits how far it can go if it slips.

Pare the final shavings by sliding the chisel in a diagonal skewing motion while pivoting under the thumb. The thumb is doing most of the driving as well as holding it down flat.

Check the bottom of the lap repeatedly for square, all along its length.

Remember I said not to saw down past the depth line? This is what happens when you don't watch the far side of the cut closely enough. This looks bad and weakens the piece.

The lap for the upper stretchers is similar, but top corner is notched off the legs. So you rip down instead of chiseling out.
  1. Clamp the legs ganged together at the top end.
  2. Mark down the sides with the square, still left at the stretcher thickness.
  3. Set the square to the exact width of the upper stretchers and mark that length from the top end, then square across.
  4. Form a knifewall and saw down the gang to the depth of the notch.
  5. Unclamp the legs and mark down all the unmarked leg sides for the stretcher thickness. You'll need to reset the square to this thickness.
  6. For each leg, rip down the length of the notch, cutting just to the waste side of the line. Flip the piece several times as you rip to keep to the line.
  7. As you reach the end of the cut, bring the saw up to 90 degrees so the cut ends square across the thickness.
  8. Chisel the notch smooth down to the line.

With the legs ganged together at the top end, saw across them at the width of the upper stretcher.

Rip down each piece at the thickness of the stretcher, flipping the piece every inch or so to stay on track.

Finish up with the saw at 90 degrees to meet up with the first cut.

There's often some cruft in the corner. Clean it up with the chisel.

Pare the surface of the notch smooth and square.

Here we get to a slightly more challenging operation. The longer right legs need to be ripped down from 3 1/2" width to just under 3", so that the left legs fold down flat with them. The challenge here is getting a straight long rip.

It's not really that difficult, but people find long rips intimidating. They think they can't keep straight on the line. The trick is to steer the saw continuously as you work, just like steering a car. Use the flex of the saw to pull it right or left to keep it on the line. Meanwhile, flip the piece over every few inches. That keeps things under control.

Don't worry if the results are a little rough. Later on when you develop hand plane skills, you can plane this surface smooth in a few seconds.

I left the left legs at full width, but you can repeat this procedure on them for consistency if you want.
  1. Set the square to 2 15/16", which is one division less than 3".
  2. Use it as a gauge to mark down the width of each right leg on both sides.
  3. With the end hanging off the edge of the bench top, kneel on the piece and start the cut, just to the waste side of the line. Make sure to have the saw square.
  4. Once the cut is started, flip the piece and start again from the other side.
  5. Repeatedly saw a few inches and flip the piece to the other side, until you get past half the length of the leg. Remember to steer the saw as you cut to keep the cut straight. Your goal is to just leave the pencil line.
  6. Reverse the leg end for end and repeat steps 3-5 on the other end, until the two cuts meet in the middle.
  7. Repeat steps 3-6 on the other right leg.
If you end up with any really ugly humps in the rip due to steering corrections, you can pare them down flat with the chisel.

    Rip down the length of the leg just to the waste side of the line, flipping it every few inches.

    Steer the saw by dropping it to a low angle and flexing it back toward where it needs to be. I've exaggerated the flex here; usually it only takes a small amount if you don't let it get out of control.

    The resulting ripped leg.

    To assemble the legs:
    1. Lay the right legs on the bench top and spread glue in the laps.
    2. Set an upper and lower stretcher in place, with the ends flush with the leg sides.
    3. Counterbore for 3 screws in each upper stretcher end, and 2 in each lower stretcher end.
    4. Drill one pilot hole in the left end of the lower stretcher, and one in the right end of the upper stretcher. Drive #12x2 1/2" screws in them.
    5. Square up the assembly by measuring with your straightedge diagonally from one corner to the other, then repeating for the other diagonal. Push slightly on the longer diagonal to squish it down. That will also lengthen the short diagonal, so split the difference. Make sure the stretcher ends remain flush with the leg sides. Repeat this as necessary until you get matching diagonals.
    6. Drill the remaining pilot holes and drive screws, being careful not to shift things around.
    7. Repeat steps 1-6 for the left legs. If you've left them at their original 3 1/2" width, you can use #12x3" screws.

    Square up the assembly by measuring the diagonals and adjusting until they match.

    Oops! I used 3" screws on the right legs, so the points came through. I filed them down flat.

    Attaching The Legs

    Before attaching the legs, add the remaining spacers for the shorter left legs:
    1. Spread glue on the left spacer and lay another spacer on top.
    2. Counterbore and drill pilot holes in a zigzag pattern along the length of the spacer, alternating the zigzag from the lower spacer.
    3. Drive #12x3" screws in the pilot holes.
    4. Repeat steps 1-3 for the last spacer.

    The stack of spacers for the left legs glued and screwed in place.

    To attach the legs:
    1. Position a hinge over the right spacer 1" from the end, opened partially back so it rests straight and the barrel is centered on the top edge of the spacer. The main challenge in installing hinges is making sure their barrels are aligned. If they don't line up, the hinges will bind.
    2. Mark the location of the screw holes.
    3. Drill 7/64" pilot holes and drive #10x1 1/2" screws.
    4. Repeat steps 1-3 with the other hinge.
    5. Stand the right legs up on the spacer and position them flush with the end and side of the spacer, with the upper stretcher against the hinges. Make sure you have the long legs for the end with the single spacer.
    6. Flip a hinge up and mark the holes.
    7. Drill and drive the screws.
    8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 for the other hinge.
    9. Repeat steps 1-8 for the left legs.

    With the hinge partially opened to rest with the barrel centered on the edge of the spacer, mark the screw holes.

    Drill pilot holes.

    Screw the hinge into place.

    Mark the screw holes on the upper stretcher.

    The right legs secured to the bench.

    In part 4, we'll add the cross-braces and do some final trimming.

    (Continue to part 4)